Every movie is a brand by itself, the revenues usually short-lived but the impact potentially timeless. Its success or failure depends on the ability to convert a need state to a desirable outcome, quite like every other category. When a sophisticated blockbuster like Kalank flops miserably, the fault lies with a poor understanding of customer expectations and not the storyline.
Movies are emotional products by definition and they invariably need to appeal to valid sentiments. Which may well be deeply topical or totally timeless, depending on the choice of the creator. To succeed, they must follow the 5C formula, namely Culture, Concept, Customer, Cast and Creativity. It can well be proven that flops fail to conform to this logical process while hits, whether accidentally or deliberately, are invariably compliant.
The first pillar is Culture – behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that define the society of today. Every studio must have an ongoing engagement with its study and exploration, thus in tune with the pulse of the audience. Relationships, be it millennial or elder, play a valuable role and movies like Dil Chahta Hain, which were ahead of this curve, scored well. Patriotism is on an all-time high in India as is a renewed sense of national identity, both highly ripe as starting points.
The second pillar is Concept – the idea or story that is going to be created. It can be derived from real-life, a novel or simply be a screenplay from the writer’s imagination. As a standalone measure, it must be engrossing and gripping, whatever be the chosen genre. Far too often, we notice a poorly crafted storyline jeopardising the entire production, notwithstanding star cast and other frills. Thus, every document as such must be evaluated as a book, successfully passing the literary test qualifying it for screen interpretation. Kahaani by Sujoy Ghosh was so successful for this very reason, it could well have been a successful adaptation from bestselling crime fiction.
The third pillar is Customer, or rather the target audience of this film. It must again flow from the concept but can be amended depending on the intent and ambition that is demonstrated. So, a romantic storyline can have a Pan-Indian target or a more specific youth appeal or an elitist objective, as can a suspense thriller. Badla, inspired by a Spanish film, chose the urban Netflix-viewing customer as its bullseye while many others sharply target the millennial youth. In the 1970s, the Amol Palekar genre was clearly focussed at mass audiences while Yash Chopra chose an elitist profile for its expressions, both equally successful. Customer assessment will decide the revenue projections and thus the overall budgets, so critical.
The fourth pillar is Cast, which is the logical next step. While budget is a factor certainly, the shortlisting will depend considerably on the suitability to do justice to the concept and the customer, as well as amplify the key elements of culture. At times, novelty plays a role as the freshness of talent induces eyeballs more than the repetition of known stars. Today’s Indian customer has significantly outgrown the superstar fascination and is demonstrating the maturity of her Western counterpart. Which explains why a Tapsee Pannu is paired vis-à-vis Amitabh Bachchan in Badla and the ladies of Pink are relative newcomers as well. Even talented regional actors like Jisshu Sengupta are thus getting Bollywood roles in Manikarnika, by dint of profile fit.
Finally, the key pillar of creativity – the skill to combine all the homework to creating great cinema. Not just in terms of direction and acting but music, photography, editing and so much more. This is indeed the final test of the journey, the passion quotient that must do justice to the rigour of process. Yet, it is important to note that raw talent or vision by itself may be insufficient – unless the entire journey is rigorously followed. Which is why we often admire cinema in a piecemeal fashion – complimenting the elements or certain sparks in cinematography but the cohesive whole falling short.
On Kalank, it must be said that the customer assessment was woefully incorrect, the upper-end urban audience utterly disdainful of such deja vu content, however lavish the aesthetics. A record loss for Fox Star studios, which could well have been avoided had the 5C formula been rigorously observed.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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